With more and more sports “heroes” embroiled in scandals involving doping, steroid use and other illegal or immoral activities, it’s encouraging to come across a story about an athlete doing the right thing, even when it means sacrificing a victory.
Of course, during this time of turmoil in the world of sports, it’s easy to forget that there have been honorable athletes as well; for example, when Ohio high school runner Meghan Vogel stopped to pick up a fallen competitor, or when Kansas City Royals pitcher Gil Meche forfeited $12 million by retiring because he felt he was no longer earning his paycheck.
And now, here’s an uplifting story from Spanish newspaper El Pais that later went viral (further proof that people are starving for evidence of good sportsmanship). In a cross-country race in Navarre, Spain, Spanish athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was set to finish in second place, running a considerable distance behind leader Abel Mutai, a bronze medalist in the 2,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics. But as they entered the final straightaway, Anaya saw the Kenyan runner mistakenly stop about 10 meters short of the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.
The crowd screamed for Mutai to keep going, but as he does not speak Spanish, he didn’t understand a word. But when 24-year-old Anaya closed the gap, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the confused Mutai to the finish line, making sure Mutai finished first.
Impressed? Anaya’s coach, Martin Fix, wasn’t. He said, “It was a very good gesture of honesty; a gesture that I myself wouldn’t have made. I certainly would have taken advantage of it to win. He has wasted an occasion. Winning makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”
Anaya’s response, perhaps more than his action, should help restore some hope for the survival of sportsmanship. He told El Pais, “Even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place on the Spanish team for the European championships, I would have done it either[…]And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.”
Would you have had the integrity that Anaya displayed if you had been in his position? Or is winning truly the end all, be all of sports? Weigh in here.